Sunday, March 18, 2012

2007 GMC Acadia: Long Term Test, Part I

Written by Ben Aghajanian, Contributing Editor

Part I: On the Road Impressions

We purchased our 2007 GMC Acadia Certified Pre-owned in July 2010 coming off a lease. It had been so well-kept by the previous owner that the dealer had it in the showroom alongside brand new cars. It looked new. We looked at new ones, and while very nice, they did not seem worth upwards of $43K. Our used one came in around $27K- a fully loaded, Carbon Black SLT AWD model.

Initially, we were very impressed with the car. Very smooth ride, good road/noise isolation even at high speeds, a decent-looking interior, and loads of space (which was one of the main reasons we bought it). We took it on a 3 week, 6,000 mile road trip from Ohio to Colorado, through Wyoming, and back and averaged 20.5mpg according to the onboard computer, which is quite accurate if not slightly under-optimistic: hand calculations usually yielded slightly higher results. Close to 21mpg is pretty good given the Acadia’s size, the fact that it was fully loaded with gear, was oftentimes cruising at 80+ on the wide open highways out west, and included lots of mountain driving.

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And this is where the car shines. It’s at home on the interstates, one of the more land yacht-esque vehicles in its class at over 200 inches long. This shows through in the way it handles, as well. The suspension tuning is somewhat odd; it corners quite flat for a near-5,000lb battleship, and hardly ever elicits squealing tires, even on sharp turns. However, hit an expansion joint or a dip on the highway, and there is quite a bit of bouncing afterwards. Maybe this is what GM means by its “Ride and handling” suspension setup. 

The cabin is very comfortable, for the most part. The front seats are very good, despite a manual recline lever that’s hard to reach (???). The second row seats, while smaller, are still comfortable and have lots of leg room. The main blunder or underdeveloped feature with the second row is the “Smart slide” seating. It leaves large tracks upon which the seats slide uncovered in front of the seats. It’s easy for them to get dirty or obstructed and it is hard to clean them out. It makes it a little easier to get to the third row, but not a ton due to the thick door pillars. Other automakers have managed to solve this problem in other, better ways. The tumble forward design seems to work well (as I recall from the last-gen Ford Explorer), as does just walking between the captain’s chairs. Sometimes, the wheel doesn’t need reinvention. The third row is comfortable enough as long as the second row is moved up a few inches.

One of the main peculiarities is related to the engine’s gearing. Around town, it feels strong enough and seems to have decent low to mid-range torque, shifting before 2,500rpm. Shifts are generally very smooth. Where it seems to struggle more is at highway speeds. The transmission can be hesitant to shift, and shifts slowly, contributing to a general feel of “laziness” in powertrain response. On the return trip from a vacation to the east coast this summer, it struggled a bit in Massachusetts’ Berkshire range, despite 275 horsepower and over 250lb-ft of torque on tap. Accelerating once out of a rest stop, it took a while to get up to speed with traffic. Someone who normally drives a 4-cylinder, 155hp Toyota Highlander (let that sink in for a second) remarked that it felt slow-not a good thing. I found myself oftentimes using “L” on the highway and manually selecting gears, which helped some as I locked out the super-tall 6th gear on a regular basis. 6th + cruise control on the highway = too much transmission hunting. It seems like if gears 3, 4, and 5 were spaced closer together, or if the engine just had more low-end torque, this would happen less frequently. Gearing is an engineering/testing blunder, not a result of cost cutting. It should be right. That being said, I can’t help but think the Acadia would shine with a small-block V8, probably at little or no cost to real-world mileage; perhaps GM’s 4.8L or 5.3L, or a 6-cylinder turbodiesel would be good fits.

This post is Part I of a multi-section long-term test. It will be linked to the updates as they are written.



  1. Thanks for posting, good comments. Looking forward to part 2.

  2. Thanks, I appreciate it! Sorry for the delay; Part 2 is now posted.


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